Apoquel: now you see it, now you don’t

By Jon Plant, DVM, DACVD

In a somewhat embarrassing setback, yesterday Zoetis (NYSE: ZTS) was forced to inform veterinary customers that Apoquel, their new drug for canine atopic dermatitis, is now on back-order only 3 weeks after its national launch.  Veterinarians who have not ordered Apoquel up until now will not be able to receive any product.  Veterinarians who have ordered Apoquel and have begun treating patients will have a very, very limited supply available while on back-order.

I hope that this back-order situation is as temporary as Zoetis has suggested, but veterinarians are all too familiar with  back-order status dragging on and on with various pharmaceuticals.

While I am certainly not privy to the details of how this shortage in supply or distribution came about, it is perplexing considering that Zoetis has been heavily promoting the drug and the science behind it for a few years, had several months of ordering experience form the veterinary dermatologists in the Early Experience program, and projects that 7 million dogs in the United States are candidates for Apoquel.

I know that this is just a temporary hiccup, but a frustrating one for veterinarians and  the clients that may not be able to refill their pet’s medication.

Update (2/6/14): Dr. Candace Sousa, Associate Director of Veterinary Operations with Zoetis has provided me with some clarification on the short-term Apoquel shortage.  A large supply of tablets has already been manufactured and is stored in Europe, awaiting packaging for distribution in the various countries in which it is being launched. Veterinarians in the US ran through what was anticipated to be a 3-month supply within a few weeks of launch, thus we are waiting on the already manufactured tablets to be packaged appropriately, processed through customs, and shipped to the US distribution centers.

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About skinvet

Jon Plant, DVM, is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology, founder of SkinVet Clinic and developer of RESPIT, regionally-specific immunotheray for atopic dermatitis of dogs and cats. He is a member of the International Committee on Atopic Diseases of Animals, the past President of the Portland Veterinary Medical Association and the Dermatology Section Editor of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association.
This entry was posted in allergic dermatitis, apoquel, Atopic Dermatitis and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Apoquel: now you see it, now you don’t

  1. Jennifer Becker says:

    I live in Southern California and have been told by my dog’s dermatologist that Apoquel will not be available as a new prescription until August 2014, six months from now.

    • skinvet says:

      Yes, Zoetis has asked us not to start any new patients on Apoquel for now. I can only hope that it is fully available in August, but even that does not seem certain.

  2. Amanda says:

    My vet is telling me that Apoquel 16mg is on backorder only until the end of April, they have lower doses(which means 4 1/2 pills a day), but it is so much more expensive!….Hopefully I can keep my dog on it because her allergies are awful, and this drug is helping substantially.

  3. Zaida says:

    Is there any update on the availability? I just had to fight to get my Vet office to prescribe the lower dosage pills and it is only a two week supply? My pet is miserable if I even give him his medicine two hours late.

    • skinvet says:

      The information that I am getting is that there will be limited availability of Apoquel through much of 2014. Veterinary clinics that have already started patients on Apoquel will have priority over those that did not order when they had the opportunity to do so, in order to help with continuity of care. Hopefully that means your veterinarian will be getting further shipments throughout the year so that your pet can continue therapy. I have heard that April and August are months in which Zoetis hopes to be able to ship more to clinics that have previously ordered. Zoetis has suggested that we not start any patients on Apoquel that are not already taking it for now.

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  5. bzibung says:

    Just found out from our vet that they won’t be getting Apoquel for the rest of the year.

  6. Kate Paradis says:

    Spoke with the Zoetis on April 21, 2014 they have stated not to expect it to become availiable until at minimum one year. Even that is not certain. My dog has been on Apoquel since it came to market. Finally something that works for him is now going to be taken away. Was told by Zoetis that there is nothing that they can do as they are out of the medication. Even though he has been started on it since the end of January.

    Shame on Zoetis for releasing something that works so well and not having the ability to forecast to have enough stock to last them more than 3 weeks before it being backordered for over a year. How many dogs are now going to suffer (along with my own) because they couldn’t get their stock sorted out at least in America before they expanded to Europe.

    • skinvet says:

      Dear Kate,
      Yes, it is frustrating. But if your pet has been on it already, there is a reasonable chance that your veterinarian will continue to receive a measured purchase allotment until it becomes more fully available in 2015. It really depends on their particular allotment and how many patients they have on Apoquel at this point.
      Kind regards,
      Jon Plant, DVM, DACVD

  7. Melissa McLendon says:

    My practice is in Jackson Mississippi. We were just told by the drug company rep that we will be unable to get any Apoquel until the middle of 2015!!!!!

  8. I have two dogs, both pitties with severe allergies that were not responsive to any other treatment protocols. They were the first dogs my vet put on Apoquel when it first hit the market. But my vet was just informed that it is on back-order until 2015. Because my boys have been on it since day 1 my vet will receive a supply every 60 days, but both boys are currently out of it =( They have responded very well to it. I hope this gets sorted quickly.

  9. Mary Delmar says:

    My female lab has been a very itchy girl for 2 of her 3 years. We tried several medications with little or no success until Apoquel came along. I was told by 2 clinics that my girl would be able to continue receiving it since she had been on it for awhile. Now I’m being told that is not the case and I’ve started giving her 1/2 of the 16mg pills to preserve what I have left and she’s itching again. How is it that some clinics are still receiving it and others aren’t? I’m about ready to start calling every clinic within 50 miles of my house to see who has it – I will switch clinics just to keep my girl happy and comfortable. This is such a shame for all of us who were so happy to FINALLY get relief for our pets.

    • skinvet says:

      Mary,
      All of us who have some Apoquel are at risk of running out. The allotment during the Apoquel backorder is based upon some calculation of the amount that was initially ordered by a clinic and the number of patients they have on it. Good planning on the part of your veterinarians can only go so far when the shipments are delayed, as they have been recently.

  10. Sheryllynn Salter says:

    I’m so depressed…my dog has already began losing her hair and scratching till she bleeds. Finally we thought our 8 year battle was over. Now this happens. I cry for my poor baby girl. She was so happy only to be let down. And after all the marketing put into the promotion of this medication only to fail your loyal customers. I hate the idea that I will be watching my Miss Bea lose her hair, scratch till she bleeds, lose weight, stay depressed and in her house, not allow anyone to touch or pet her because her skin hurts so badly. I cry for her. I cry hard for her. This is soooo frustrating!

  11. Donna McOwen says:

    I, as many, are very frustrated with the handling of this treatment for dogs who are very allergic to so many things and have had problems for many years trying to control the uncomfortableness of their dogs who suffer every year with continuous itching of the skin. I was using this medication and then had to move to another state and now I cannot get the medication as the vet I go to was told there was none available and are back ordered. This is really crazy and cannot believe there was not enough made especially when it proved in testimonials from others during the trials, etc…that it actually works. My dog has had perfect skin and now it is going back to what it was before and that is very discouraging. I am really sick and frustrated over this. Very poor planning on their part and bad business.

  12. Nicky says:

    My poor dog has been on everything to try and sort out her skin problem. When my vet suggested changing from Atopica to Apoquel I didn’t expect too much as nothing seemed to work. However after two days she was a different dog. After watching her suffer for over a year she finally looked much happier, no itching or rubbing etc. I didn’t have to put boots and cone on her when I had to go out to stop her scratching herself raw!
    I am was amazed when my vet said he had 14 tablets left which he had saved for her as she is the worst case the surgery has seen. I’m giving one every two days to try and spread them out. I’m so saddened to think of her going back to the sad itchy dog she was a few months ago.

    • Donna McOwen says:

      I had the same thing happened and the pills I had left….I stretched even further by half pills every other day or two days. I am totally out now and of course, as with others and the vets…waiting for this miracle to come in again. Latest info I heard, won’t be till next year 😦

      • Nicky says:

        I was told today that the tablet lasts 22hrs. I can tell the days she doesn’t have it. But I am considering halting them Donna. I don’t understand how one vet can get them but another can’t??? Very sad.

  13. Mark says:

    I currently have my dog on apoquel. He has had skin issues for the better part of 4 years. I have had him on apoquel for 3 months. My vet said that Zoetis is out of sock for apoquel until June 2015. Is there any way that I can maintain my current treatment for my dog. I keep hearing that dogs that are currently receiving treatment for apoquel will be given priority to continue that treatment. How or where do I go to maintain this treatment? My vet is completely out of apoquel and so is every pet pharmacy that I have checked online. Should I ration what I have left to periodically giving it to him when he gets really bad or should I keep giving him his daily doses and just run out? Which with help him better?

    • skinvet says:

      Hi Mark,
      Zoetis made some tough decisions this spring about allocating their supply of Apoquel to veterinarians based upon our brief Apoquel order history and the number of patients we had started on Apoquel. From there, we are responsible for using our supply for our existing patients. Some veterinarians were allocated more than others and some may not have received any more at all, once it went on backorder. I don’t know of any source of Apoquel other than your veterinarian, and you will need to talk with him/her about how to use your existing supply.

  14. Scott Cook says:

    This is more than an embarrassment for Zoetis; it is reprehensible behavior and VERY POOR planning and execution. Glad I’m not an investor in this company.

    • skinvet says:

      Yes, poor planning. But let’s not forget that many, many dogs have already been helped by Apoquel, and there will be many more in the future.

      • Nicky says:

        ???? Yes many dogs were helped but where are we now ?? Back to square one as this amazing medication is no longer available. I have tried everything to get this medication for my dog. There is no excuse for this shortage if you ask me. It’s all about money and who makes the most never mind our poor dogs who are the ones who suffer and we have to watch. Yes delet this as its the truth.

  15. Zaida says:

    I am one of the few very fortunate so far. My dog had been on everything for over 3 yrs. He has been on Apoquel since January. He is doing wonderfully. I get extremely nervous at the 6 week mark when I call the Vet to see how it is looking for my refill. He hasn’t had to miss a dose yet. He is a completely normal happy boy now, no itching. Amazing drug, I only hope they make more soon!

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